In Kansas City, July and August are the hottest months of the year. How have you been holding up in all this heat and humidity? And more importantly, are you doing your best to stay hydrated?
If you’ve been thirsty lately, well, that’s a sign that you may have some replenishing to do.
Dehydration can happen any time of the year, but it’s more common during summer months when people are outdoors in the sun doing activities. Extreme heat signals the body to produce more sweat to stay cool. If we don’t replace the fluid we lose, we can put ourselves at risk of dehydration.
Newsflash: the human body is made of about 50-75% water. So when the body is dehydrated, it can’t function the way it’s supposed to. Every cell, every tissue, and every organ needs water to work properly.
How to tell if you’re dehydrated? While everyone can experience symptoms differently, the Mayo Clinic shares some common signs.
Signs of dehydration in adults:
- Extreme thirst
- Urinating less often
- Dark-colored urine
Signs of dehydration in infants and young children:
- Dry mouth and tongue
- No tears when crying
- No wet diapers for three hours
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- Listlessness or Irritability
- Less playful and sleepier
Who is most at risk for dehydration?
Anyone who is in extreme heat can be susceptible to hydration. But the Cleveland Clinic tells us that a few populations are slightly more at risk.
Those who work outdoors. The CDC recommends hydrating before you start the workday if you’re working in high temperatures.
Older adults. Older adults may be at higher risk for dehydration because the body’s fluid reserve decreases with age.
Infants and toddlers. Little ones can’t tell you when they’re thirsty. Dehydration can also happen when they’re sick.
Those with a chronic condition. You may be more susceptible to dehydration if you have a digestive condition that causes frequent diarrhea. Some medications can cause dehydration if they contain diuretics.
Pregnant women. Hyperemisis gravidarum (HG) can cause severe vomiting and may require IV fluids to prevent dehydration.
Athletes. Athletes can become dehydrated whether you’re indoors, outdoors, or even in the water. Intense physical activity causes the body to lose fluids and electrolytes.
Helpful hydration tips. Drink up.
Drink fluids before you feel thirsty. Hint: By the time you feel thirsty, you are already behind in fluid replacement.
Sip water steadily throughout the day and drink more fluids than usual when the weather is hot – especially if you’re active.
Eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day is enough for most people. But if you’re sweating a lot from the heat, you’ll need more.
Stick to plain, carbonated, and flavored water. Avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol – they can cause dehydration.
Eat foods with high-water content. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, pineapple, and tomatoes. Veggies like cucumbers, leafy greens, radishes, celery, and zucchini.
Avoid sun exposure between 10 am and 2 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Play it safe, and plan outdoor activities for the early morning or evening.
Don’t overexert in the heat. When temperatures rise, take a break from outdoor activities and rest in a cool, shady spot.
Dress for the heat. Wear light, loose-fitting clothes that let your skin breathe. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep your head cool. Always apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
Note the color of your pee. Urine that is clear or pale yellow says your body has enough fluid. When urine turns the color of apple juice or darker, your body is begging for water.
Your best defense against dehydration?
Prevention, doctors say. When spending time in the sun, drink plenty of fluids, especially water. If you’ll be outside for long periods of time, bring along a refillable water bottle.
When you make a habit of drinking fluids all day – whether you’re thirsty or not – you’ll keep your body hydrated and happy all summer long.
The CDC has published a handy PDF on Heat Stress Hydration. Download it here.
Sources: hopkinsmedicine.org, clevelandclinic.org, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention